Family and Creativity – Nature or Nurture?

On a recent summer trip to my home town of Portland, Oregon I decided to photograph my parents (long divorced) alongside their creative endeavors. Embodying the motto carpe diem they are youthful, active and very inspiring people to me, especially in their retirement years. Never bored (seriously) they possess daily curiosity and drive in completing artistic projects.

As a youngster, I was recruited to help in their endeavors and to that I credit in part my love of collaboration and teaching. While I’m certain that their affinities for the creative process inspired me to pursue my own career, I have become increasingly interested in studies that explore whether “being creative” is innate or learned.

An article in the Guardsman titled “Born this Way?” says that: “The enduring question with creativity has always been whether the defining factors come from nature or nurture. Everyone can learn to be creative to some degree, but new research has revealed that the extent to which we’re born creative may be greater than previously thought.” The article, which I recommend reviewing, goes on to discuss studies that attach DNA to potential creative parts of the brain.

In a different interview on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation”  Nancy C. Andreasen, M.D., Ph.D and author of the The Creating Brain claims that it is never too late in life to learn to be creative and that the outcome comes with hard work, showing up and making time and space to observe and play. Her studies explore how the brain has historically produced creative breakthroughs in art, literature and science and asserts that creativity is not the same thing as intelligence.

As an Educator, I witness that creativity can be learned or at least enjoyed and enhanced. Let’s hope so, otherwise why go to the effort of teaching and learning? I do recognize however,  that growing up in a creative household gave me a good foundation from which to grow quickly. Did you grow up in a creative household? If so do you think your creativity is innate? If not, do you feel that creativity can be learned? Please post your comments below. – Erika

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